Looking for restaurants in Vatican City can mean avoiding a maze of tourist traps. Our guide to the area will help you eat with confidence.
Since 1929, 100 acres of downtown Rome known as the Vatican City, have been recognized as the smallest independent state in the world. People flock there, not only because it is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, but because it contains two of the most important artistic and cultural sites in Rome: Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. No trip to Rome would be complete without seeing Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the tombs of the popes. But how to keep yourself fresh after braving the crowds? That’s where this guide to the top restaurants in Vatican City comes into play.
What’s on offer?
Although there are no restaurants in Vatican City itself, the surrounding streets have a lot to offer from street food to fine dining. There are several areas to choose from whether you are visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums (which are surprisingly far apart). Here are our favorite restaurants and eateries covering everything from street food to fine dining.
Around the Vatican Museums
Although there are some café-bars right outside the entrance/exit to the Vatican Museums, these are best avoided. Instead, take a trip down Via Santamaura where there are some interesting places to eat. For a snack or a bite of Rome street food, why not visit the Mercato Trionfale?As well as a couple of excellent café bars, there are cold meat stalls that will knock you up a traditional porchetta (whole roast pig) sandwich. You can also find Roman street food favorites such as supplì (rice croquettes), carciofi alla giudia (deep fried artichokes) and baccalà fritta (salt cod fried in batter).
For something more substantial try the Osteria delle Commari. This is a traditional-style restaurant serving local cuisine. It’s a great place to try a creamy carbonara or a salty-spice cacio e pepe (pasta with mature cheese and black pepper). It also serves a range of vegetarian and vegan options.
Around the Piazza San Pietro
If you’re visiting the Piazza or Basilica San Pietro, then you should explore the area known as Borgo. The main street here, known as Borgo Pio has a delightful mix of shops selling religious articles (great if you’re looking for souvenirs) and food. Although the restaurants here mostly cater to tourists there are some good options.
The Panificio Arrigoni (Borgo Pio 126) is a traditional bread shop that sells a variety of panini (sandwiches), pizza, and other things. It is also noted as being the shop that supplies bread to the pope himself! The prices are very reasonable and you can eat them in the nearby park next to the Castel Sant’Angelo.
A few steps further down Borgo Pio brings you to Borghiciana Pasticifcio Artigianale, which serves a variety of homemade pasta dishes. This is a good place to try out the local Roman offerings of carbonara, cacio e pepe and amatriciana as well as some more idiosyncratic ideas. It’s small, and you may have to queue, but it’s worth the wait.
On the other side of the street, Mamma Eat Street Food has an excellent, and moderately priced, selection of Neapolitan-style street food. These include croquettes, cod in batter, deep-fried rice balls, and the inevitable pizza. Also, they offer a wide-range of gluten-free products which makes them an invaluable addition to our list. Don’t be put off by the modern, fast-food appearance of the place. It’s actually very good.
If it’s hot, and in the summer it can be, you’ll be in need of some gelato. There are some excellent gelaterie on Via Ottaviano, on the other side of the Piazza del Risorgimento from the Vatican. We love Lemongrass for their organic artisanal gelato. The range of flavors varies according to season. Also, they have free Wi-Fi.
A little further away, in the backstreets to the south of the Via della Conciliazione—the main street leading from the Piazza San Pietro to the river Tiber—things suddenly take on a more local, less touristy flavor. In the centre of all this is the Ristorante Wine Bar De’ Penitenzieri. Is it a café, is it a bar, is it a restaurant? It’s actually all three and very popular with the locals. It opens at 5.30 am and so is a great place to have breakfast if you’re looking to beat the crowds to the Basilica di San Pietro in high season. It also does bar food as well as a full menu which makes it perfect for lunch or dinner. If you’re looking for authentic, traditional Italy, this is the place.
About a 15-minute walk from the Vatican, L’arcangelo is a fine-dining experience you won’t want to miss. Run by award-winning chef Arcangelo Dandini, this place serves possibly the best carbonara in Rome. The menu consists of elegant retellings of Roman classics as well as more imaginative creations such as pigeon with incense, mustard, and rosemary smoke. Dining here is a really special experience.